I have a sweet tooth like you wouldn't believe. Sugar cravings come on the regular, so I give myself little challenges, like fasting from sweets for a period of time, or I set rules like "No candy Monday-Friday" and "Eat something green before something sweet." ...All in an effort to tame the beast.
I'm just coming off of a 30-day fast from sugar last month, and it feels great. Not only does the rehab part feel great (no more blind binging), but it felt great to lose the craving entirely for a few weeks. Giving something up helps you learn to live without it.
During that time, I saw the truth behind my candy addiction. I saw eating it as taking in processed chemicals. There's nothing tasty about that.
Normally, I would just eat it without thinking another thought.
But during the 30-day fast, I thought a lot. I paused and observed. I saw how my knee-jerk reaction to stressful moments caused me to immediately daydream of sweet and sour morsels. Like clockwork, memory pulled the flavor to mind and my mouth would water.
Fortunately, I had a trusty resource to keep me honest. My book, "The Declutter Code: 10 Simple Steps to Clarity".
How did The Declutter Code help me beat the sugar cravings during the fast? Since it can be applied to everything in our lives, I knew I could apply the Code to my sweet tooth. It helped me to be more mindful of all the sugar stimuli out there. Television, music, billboards, overwhelm, despair, stress...
I'm not stronger than the cravings when I'm not mindful and present.
I won't lie, though, sometimes I'm mindful of the fact that I don't give a shiz and I eat it anyway. At least I'm aware of it. I'll watch myself eat it, feel the pending regret, envision the added inches on my hips and do it anyway. But I don't go overboard when I'm vigilant--so I guess there's the saving grace.
Some days were harder than others to reign in the craving and stick to the plan. But I made it out unharmed and proud of the accomplishment. I did it, which means I just proved to myself I could do anything I put my mind to. I just proved sugar dependency was always within my control.
People want kicking the habit, stopping the insanity and losing weight to be a natural thing. We want to curb sugar cravings naturally. How do we get to a place where not binging on sugar is second-nature?
I have some theories. At least, I know what worked for me. Here's how I used the Code.
1. Isolate it
Imagine how you will feel after you give into it. Happy? Relieved? Guilty? Worse off? Which feels better: the idea of giving in or not giving in? (We're only left with the idea of the food after we swallow, so why not live in the idea beforehand a little.)
Now, isolate what you're planning on using to cure the sugar craving. Pie, cake, chocolate, sour gummies? Feel fully the temptation the craving offers, but be picky about what you use to satisfy it. If it's going to be ice cream, stick to the idea that only ice cream will do the trick. And, for this moment, don't give into any other remedy.
To isolate the craving is to slow it down.
Slowing down helps us avoid hasty reactions--like immediately snacking just because we're stressed. When we slow, we can isolate the craving away from rationales and reasons. We detach sugar from the promise of making us feel better. We remove all associations and let it be what it is: sugar.
This way, we don't react so blindly. Before we put anything in our mouths, we move in slow motion...watching ourselves, our hands, our eyes, our mouths.
2. Observe it
Observe it like you would any object that can fit into the palm of your hand. Look at it as something you can pick up or put down.
It's nothing more than that.
To see is to observe with new eyes.
We see the object of our sugar obsession with a fresh perspective--one not as limited or powerless as before. Now we're in a position to choose differently. We are stronger than the craving.
We come to witness firsthand the craving to be just a desire to feel satiated, or comforted, in a way that feels within our control. What we think we're craving has nothing to do with it.
3. Replace it
And you've isolated the sugar craving to one thing: ice cream. Now it's easier to replace that one thing rather than contending with every sugar option out there. Which means it's easier to replace; one for one. For example, replace ice cream with a 20-minute walk.
What else does your body want? I learned that when my insides screamed for sugar, I was usually dehydrated. So, whenever a sugar craving creeped in during the fast, I would drink at least .5 liters of water and find that the craving disappeared.
What is it for you? If you close your eyes and look deep within, is there something else that sounds just as yummy as sugar? Would that be a better alternative?
This is where distractions can serve us. We can distract ourselves with other activities that don't involve eating, like going to a yoga class, calling an accountability partner, or reading a book.
And we can shift how we think about sugar. We can tell ourselves a new story. I tell myself it's an addiction that I don't want controlling me. I know I have the power over sugar--and that's what I continued to tell myself, over and over, until I believed it.
4. Eat it
Because you've isolated the craving, observed what it does to your body, and even tried replacing it with something else, you are now wiser about what you truly want.
So if ice cream is what you truly want, eat it!! My guarantee is you'll eat it with new perspective, new dexterity, new tastebuds, and you won't binge your way to regret. With informed eyes, you now know when to stop. When the taste of it is enough. When the doing it is enough.
We go ahead and have that thing, eat that thing, drink that thing. We do so, knowing that we don't have to eat it all. We slowly savor and really taste the thing. Filled with gratitude for the nourishment, we enjoy it. We feel it hit our tongue and melt in our mouths. We chew and we swallow.
After a bite or two, when we are completely satisfied, we stop. We don't need another bite.
My friend Juliana is this way. She's so good about passing on sweets. She has a weakness for chocolate, though. When she gets the craving, she takes one square of a dark chocolate bar and feels completely whole again. One and done. My hero.
(If you're on a fast, savor sweet *moments* only.)
You learn a lot about yourself when you place restrictions on impulsive behavior--like I did during the fast. I learned that I mostly crave sweets when I'm stressed. When overwhelm hits, my tongue immediately calls in reinforcements: sour gummy worms. It's like my hand is possessed and my brain is muzzled. I don't think, I just eat. Now I feel wiser. Now I drink water.
Can you benefit from fasting from sugar? (Or fill in the blank with your own addiction. Salt, coffee, drugs, alcohol?) Give yourself a defined period of time in which you place it off limits. (For me, "sugar" meant candy, pastries, cakes, etc.) Get specific about what you're addicted to and put up the red tape.
One month for me was long enough to experience myself (skin, body, energy levels, food cravings) off sugar and like it. Being exposed to myself being just fine (if not better) without it was eye-opening.
Knowing there's an end in sight, and you will be able to eat that thing again, helps you make it through the withdrawals. Helps keep your perseverance. Sometimes that's all you need to realize you don't want to go back to it at all.